How to Stop Wasting Time (2 Incredibly Easy Strategies)

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 04/20/15 •  5 min read

For the past month I’ve found myself wasting a lot of time.

What I mean by that is that my default state hasn’t been one of productive habits. I’ll wake up, get a big task or project done, and then instead of deliberately doing something else – I slack off.

You know what it’s like when you pull out your phone and start scrolling through Facebook or Instagram – or getting lost in an endless stream of You Tube videos or blog posts.

That’s been my default state lately, and that in itself can be completely overwhelming.

How to Stop Wasting Time

Here’s the thing about killing time: it leads to more killing time.

Often it starts with just 5 or 10 minutes between tasks. However if you’re not careful, that can quickly turn into a half an hour or more, and happen multiple times a day.

These days between Location Rebel, Breaking Eighty, and the Eighty Club – I have more than my fair share of things to spend time on.

Yet the routine I’ve found myself in has me accomplishing less, when I’m at a time that I should be accomplishing much more.

This problem can be much more dangerous when you’re working for yourself. It’s not like you’re still going to collect your paycheck if you slack off as a solopreneur.

My ability to be productive is directly related to my ability to pay my bills and continue living this lifestyle – so when I find myself in one of these phases, it’s not a good place to be.

The thing is, it’s not necessarily hard to change these routines. I honestly didn’t even realize that I’d been doing this until I turned a corner and had a truly productive day.

I started thinking to myself “what changed?” What made this one day so much better than the day before it?

The answer was twofold and extremely simple (perhaps even obvious):

Strategy #1 to Stop Wasting Time: Create a “Top 5”

One thing that my boss taught me back in my old job was the importance of the Top 5.  Before leaving every work every night he taught me to write out the top 5 things I had to do for the next day.

This way when I woke up and got back to work, there was no confusion or room for questioning what had to get done.

I waste time when I don’t have a clear idea of what I need to do – so by making it explicitly clear, I didn’t give myself enough time to slack.

I’ve also modified the concept of the top 5 to work really well for me.

You can see exactly what that looks like in my post: My Best Secret for Procrastination and Getting Stuff Done.

When I get out of the habit of doing this, my work struggles. So this is a reminder of how important this process is, especially when you’re busy.

Learn How to Make Your First $1,000 Freelance Writing (in 30 Days or Less)

Join over 40,000 people who have taken our 6 part freelance writing course. Sign up below and let’s do this together.

By entering your email address you agree to receive emails from Location Rebel. We'll respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Strategy #2 to Stop Wasting Time: Eat Breakfast

Again, this seems like one of those “shouldn’t you do that everyday?” kind of things.

I usually don’t eat breakfast, however when I do it’s a really powerful trigger for me.

When I take the time to make breakfast, I almost always pour a big glass of water and drink it while I’m making it.

Then I have another while I’m eating.

Right there I’ve knocked off two healthy habits early in the morning. These things trigger me to continue making good, healthful choices.

I tend to exercise more on these days. I’m more focused.

On this particular day when I was so much more productive I did both of these things.

And then I stopped working at noon.

I got twice as much stuff done in half the amount of time, and I left a lot of time left in the day to go play.

I went golfing. I played video games for a little while. Then I went out to dinner with friends.

What’s important about each of those leisure activities is that I was deliberate about them – just as I was with my work.

That word is the most important part of success for me: deliberate.

Even things that may seem like a waste of time, such as playing video games, are totally fine, as long as you’re purposefully making the decision to do it – and not going overboard.

If you’re not deliberate in your actions you’ll find yourself killing much more time than you should be.

Start with your top 5, so you have a roadmap.

Then figure out what your healthy habit trigger is to help kickstart the day. For me, it’s breakfast.

For you it could be exercise, meditation, yoga, reading, etc.

Daily Roadmap + Healthy Trigger = More Deliberate Action 

This leads to less stress and a greater sense of happiness – or at least it has for me.

How do you avoid killing time? Have you ever found yourself in the same situation I’ve been in? Share your story with us in the comments!

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
Learn How to Make Your First $1,000 Freelance Writing (in 30 Days or Less)

Join over 40,000 people who have taken our 6 part freelance writing course. Sign up below and let’s do this together.

By entering your email address you agree to receive emails from Location Rebel. We'll respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.

10 comments on "How to Stop Wasting Time (2 Incredibly Easy Strategies)"

  1. Great post Sean – I can totally relate to the whole idea of killing time, I’m guessing many of us can. The #1 time killer for me is new messages that pop up that I find myself checking immediately and taking my focus away from whatever it it I’m working on. Whether the message is a new email, social media mention or like, or even an incoming phone call. These distractions are time killers for me. Whenever I’m working on my daily priorities, or Top 5 as you call them, I make it a point to turn of my phone and shut down all other browsers so there is absolutely no distractions so that my focus remains on whatever it is I’m working on until it’s completed at which time I can then check my emails, voice messages, and social media. This has helped me big time. Love your idea too of making it a point to start the day off by making yourself a healthy breakfast. If for sure sets the tone for the day. Healthy food, healthy mind. Cheers!

    1. Sean says:

      Yeah another habit similar to that is the constant addiction of checking email. I tend to do it constantly – when in reality 3-4 times a day would be much better from a productivity and sanity stand point 🙂

  2. Garin Etch says:

    Thanks for the suggestions Sean! I’m gonna try making breakfast. I’ve known for a long time that I should for health reasons, but never looked at it as a trigger. I like the idea of starting the day proactively- deliberately doing something I choose- rather than reactively by doing whatever pops up in my inbox.

    The pomodoro technique works well for me. I have a shot glass full of pennies on my desk. At night I’ll decide how productive I need to be and set aside a stack, then the next day I make myself work my way through them. Focus@Will goes well with this too.

  3. Don Purdum says:

    Hi Sean,

    I can totally relate to this article. I’ve been an entrepreneur for ten years and during that time I learned a lot about procrastination and time killers that were not helpful to me.

    I learned from a friend a chart to help me figure out what my high level activities ought to be that will help me market, sell and grow my business.

    It’s funny too, because there are times you get trapped in the wrong quadrant and unintentionally find myself doing time killers.

    Great post Sean! I appreciate your article and helpful perspective!!!!

    ~ Don Purdum

  4. Martin says:

    Who really is totally productive at the end of the day? I skip breakfast and head straight to BJJ/weights after chugging coffee.

    I then follow this method:

    Ferriss says that you should take a period of time to complete that task that has been on your mind forever.

  5. Jessica says:

    You’re reading my mind. I just started my own business and I constantly have to battle killer time. It’s nice and sunny in Berlin right now, where I live, and I would love to use some time for actually playing outside and not just killing time. I already write down my to do’s for the day every morning, but I’ll try the Top 5.
    Thanks for putting the problem into words!

  6. Ellen says:

    Really useful reminders Sean. The social media time suck is such a risk when you work on your own at a laptop!

    I think the top 5 is great, and I also have a few weekly goals with an accountability group each week that really help bring me back to the ‘big rocks’ in my week. I also turn most of the ‘bings’ off of my social media alerts, and I turn off my wifi when I shut down at night, and I don’t turn it back on until I’ve done morning pages and a few other things in my morning routine. I just need to get disciplined enough to keep it off until I’ve done at least one ‘big rock’ now…

  7. Lucy W says:

    Yes! Those 5 0r 10 minutes are the danger zone!! Like right now for me. Office time at Starbucks watching video tutorials and I am ready to drift off to find some migrating warblers to photograph and before I know it, it would be dark. I also agree about the importance of flow time and I LOVE what your ex-boss suggested. I will try it out. Thanks Sean. Brilliant as always.

  8. Absolutely.

    Nothing ensures having a productive day like hitting the morning habits right out of the gate.

    It’s also helpful to have certain “systems” in place, in order to avoid decision fatigue. A lot of big name entrepreneurs (and Pres. Obama!) swear by it.

    Have less options for:

    Clothes to wear
    Where you will work
    What you will eat
    And all other routines

    When I have those in place, my mind is more freed up to use glucose on my bigger projects that move the business forward.

    Anyone else combat decision fatigue? What works for you?

  9. Jake Chazan says:

    Well written piece. Perhaps this is another way of saying that we need to have goals. Years ago someone taught me that we can spend a lot of time doing things that make ourselves feel like we are busy but it’s unproductive time.

    I used to work with a fellow who organized himself to get everything done at his job from nine to five. Never worked overtime, never arrived early, never missed lunch. Was he efficient? No, not really, but he had his 5 (or 10) things mapped out and when he was done (subject to an emergency), he was done. Great role model.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *